The NHL's Eastern Conference Finals shift to Tampa for the next two games, including tonight's Game 3 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins from the St. Pete Times Forum. Game 3 faces off a little after 8:00pm tonight, with national TV coverage on Versus and the winner claiming a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
It's hard to figure out a way the Lightning could have played worse than they did in the second period of Game 2, when they gave up five goals to Boston and only converted one of a surprisingly large number of scoring chances. To a man, though, the team knows exactly what went wrong. From Damian Cristodero's report in the St. Petersburg Times:
We heard a lot about how the Lightning lost its "structure" in Game 2. For Steven Stamkos, that meant lapses in defensive zone coverages, getting sticks on pucks and managing the puck. Vincent Lecavalier mentioned turnovers.
Coach Guy Boucher said defensemen jumping into the offensive flow at the wrong times was a big reason the Bruins had so many odd-man rushes.
And yes, he added, perhaps the team was a bit overconfident from its long winning streak.
The good news for Tampa Bay, Boucher said, is "these are things we can correct quite easily."
It may be difficult for some fans to wrap their hands around the Lightning losing on Tuesday after running off eight straight playoff wins, tying a franchise record. But for the players and the coaches, it's something they were expecting, as Lecavalier told Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune.
"It's tough. I mean, playoffs are roller coaster rides. But it's how you come back the next game or it's how you bounce back that shows what type of team you are and the character that you have in a team. And I really think we've been doing well... like against Pittsburgh we lost a few big games, but we kept at it, we showed a lot of character.
"But we realize that it's a series. It's not one game. You're not going to win all your games. So you have to make sure that when you do, when you don't win, then you bounce back and you play solid the next game."
The Lightning even bounced back within the game, scoring twice in the third period and making the Bruins sweat out the victory. As bad as Tampa Bay played for the first two periods, they still put five goals on the board and had several chances to tie it up near the final horn, and that's something Boston forward Michael Ryder knows they need to correct (registration may be required):
"I think in the third we sat back a little bit and we weren't skating," Ryder said. "We were just kind of watching a little bit. Timmy [Thomas] came up huge... I think we have to learn from the third period that we can't do that because the team on the other side, they're not giving up."
There's a good chance Patrice Bergeron will be back in the Boston lineup tonight after missing the first two games of the series with a concussion. According to the Boston Globe, he will practice at the Forum this morning and based on how that goes, he should get the green light to return to action. Meanwhile, Pavel Kubina did not make the trip to Boston for the first two games, and it's unlikely he will play tonight.
- The Lightning are 3-2 at home in this year's playoffs, although they've won their last three. Boston is 4-1 on the road, winning two of three in Montreal and winning both games in Philadelphia.
- Tampa Bay is 8-3 all time in Game 3 of a playoff series.
- Lecavalier had a goal and three assists in Game 2, setting a team playoff record for points (four) in a single game.
- Backup goalie Mike Smith saw his first action of the postseason in the third period of Game 2, stopping all eight shots he faced.
- Tampa Bay's 41 shots in Game 2 were the most they have taken in any playoff game this season.